Q: Firstly, tell us a bit about the European Students’ Union
The European Students’ Union (ESU) is the umbrella organisation of 45 National Unions of Students (NUS) from 39 countries, representing almost 20 million students in Europe. The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at the European level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Bologna Follow Up Group, Council of Europe and UNESCO.
Q: What is your motivation for getting involved in the SciShops project?
In ESU, we work and advocate for the inclusion of students in decision-making processes and promote their active role in shaping the future of societies. One of the aims of SciShops is promoting the benefits of Science Shops for students, civil society, researchers and society as a whole.
The concept of Science Shops inviting and including citizens in research projects through community-based participatory research initiatives is in line with ESU’s vision. Research – as well as accessible high quality education – is key for the development and sustainability of societies, and it is crucial that citizens actively take part in and use research to find solutions for the main challenges they face in their everyday lives.
It is great to be part of an EU project supporting the expansion of these type of initiatives; they are a step forward for the democratisation of research.
Q: What is ESU’s role in the project?
ESU is the dissemination lead, counting on all partners’ support and collaboration. This work package focuses its efforts on raising awareness of SciShops and the new Science Shops developed within the project; as well as ensuring that the outcomes of the research projects and the tools and resources developed within the project reach out to relevant stakeholders so they can benefit from them.
To support these objectives, a final symposium will serve as the key dissemination event for the project. In addition, an exploitation plan for the outcomes, platform and resources developed within the project will be developed by ESU together with SciCo Cyprus and KPMG.
Q: What do you think are the main communication challenges for Science Shops?
I think that one of the main challenges faced by Science Shops is the lack of resources, time and training dedicated to Communications. Most existing Science Shops don’t have a person dedicated to developing these activities. In the best scenario, they include these tasks within the responsibilities of a manager, other staff members or volunteers that offer support for administrative and communications tasks (sometimes students) or they rely on their mother organisations/Universities.
To set up a plan of action and carry out effective communications to raise awareness of the project/s and build a good reputation among the communities, organisations and other relevant stakeholders is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the initiative.
SciShops has developed a number of resources to help Science Shop implement communication strategies activities, which are available on the project platform (https://www.scishops.eu/).
Q: What do you personally find most interesting/exciting about the project?
I have found participating in this project to be a really enriching experience. The collaboration with a wide range of professionals from different backgrounds and working in completely different fields, offers the opportunity for valuable feedback and real knowledge exchange. Both the project itself and the different partners benefit from this combination, learning together and making the most out of the different expertise and skills of the members of the team.
Supporting a good cause as bringing research and civil society closer together is also rewarding.